How Does Fault Work in Washington State Accidents?

Washington, like the majority of states, uses the fault-based legal doctrine when determining payouts after an auto accident. This means that the at-fault driver’s insurance is responsible for paying expenses after the accident. However, as we’ll explain below, you can still get compensation if you are partially (or even mostly) at fault for an accident. 

Washington is a Pure Comparative Negligence State

For a moment, let’s go all the way to the Eastern Seaboard. Pretend you’re driving your car in the Tarheel State of North Carolina and get into an accident. The other driver ran a stop sign—didn’t even slow down—and t-boned your car. That seems like a pretty open-and-shut case, right? Well, during the insurance company’s investigation, it is revealed that you were talking on the phone and, therefore, didn’t have 100 percent of your focus on the road. Although the other driver clearly flouted the rules of the road, you would probably recover nothing

That’s because North Carolina is one of four states (the others being Alabama, Virginia, and Maryland) that follows a pure contributory negligence rule. This means that drivers who are as little as one percent at fault are barred from recovering damages. 

Fortunately for Washington state drivers, it is not that way in the Evergreen State. In fact, you could consider Washington to be on the other side of the spectrum. This state follows the pure comparative negligence rule, meaning that even drivers who are found to be 99 percent at fault for an accident can recover one percent of the damages from the other driver’s insurance policy. 

Required Insurance Limits for Washington Drivers

Licensed drivers in Washington state are required to carry at least some insurance that would pay out in case of an accident. The minimum limits are as follows: 

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person per accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death per accident (multiple people)
  • $10,000 for property damage per accident

Interestingly, there are some other ways to satisfy this requirement. Drivers may apply for a certificate of deposit with the state licensing department to guarantee their financial obligations after an accident. Another way is to simply have a liability bond of $60,000. We strongly recommend drivers to consider purchasing insurance beyond the required limits, as catastrophic accidents can easily exceed the minimum limits. 

Recovering Damages After an Accident

While it’s generally good news for drivers that Washington follows a pure comparative fault system, getting the compensation you deserve after an accident is not always so simple. Insurance investigators use a variety of tactics to try to justify paying as little as possible after an accident. Many times, carriers will delay paying out claims or flat-out refuse to do so. 

If you’re having trouble getting justice after a car accident in Washington state, let us know and we’ll do whatever we can to get your life back to normal. Set up a consultation with our team today.

The following two tabs change content below.

McMahon Law Group

Legal issues of any type can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, and certainly something you don’t want to face alone. Attorney Jacque McMahon and the McMahon Law Group will work closely with you to ensure you not only get the best legal representation possible, but that you are well-informed throughout the process. If you are facing legal issues, please contact us to discuss your situation and get the help you need.

Latest posts by McMahon Law Group (see all)